Celebrating TWO…and my First Home-Water Birth

Celebrating TWO…and my First Home-Water Birth

It’s hard for me to imagine, but this time two years ago, I was barely recovering from having my first HOME Water Birth Story session! Yes, me. I was recovering…from photographing it! To say this birth was eventful would be a huge understatement, as this birth was filled with so much peace, joy, love…and also worry, pain, and uncertainty. Our strong Mommy undoubtedly passed her strength and spirit to her incredible, brave, princess fighter, and through some tears and quite literally a “labor of love,” I watched as this life was brought Earth side. We started at my clients’ home, fairly late in the evening, maybe around 9 pm, but ended up at OU Children’s sometime well after midnight. Thankfully, God had His hand over this family the whole time, and I could not have been more thankful to be a small part of their amazing journey while growing their sweet family. Through the joys of having social media and especially Facebook, I have been able to watch this precious little one grow into now a beautiful little “wildflower” as her Mommy likes to say. I’m sharing today as I think of this child often, and am so thankful for her life and that I was able to witness the beginning of it. With the COVID pandemic taking over our ability to do normal, daily tasks, including various types of photography over the past several months, I have missed being able to meet and document our world’s newest blessings. And this birth was so very special to me, so sharing my love for Births and this Birth Story just seemed natural. 

Here are a couple of images from this special child’s amazing Birth Story, as captured through my lens. I love every image from this Birth Story. Documenting this time is truly an honor for me. To be there, in the room, present with Mom, Dad, the medical team, and of course, God, who makes this miracle happen. I’ve been questioned before about how I can document “births.” “Aren’t they…umm…”  … LET ME STOP YOU THERE. Births are beautiful. They are part of everyone’s story, and documenting the details couldn’t be more fulfilling to my soul. If you can’t see beauty in these images, my guess is that you have some preconceived notion of what you think birth is like, and not what it actually is. Because…just look at these! BEAUTIFUL. GOD. MIRACLES. 

Happiest of Birthdays to you, Eden! Thankful to have been among the first to meet you!






{D} Family : Newborn Session – Twins!

{D} Family : Newborn Session – Twins!

Seriously, how beautiful…to be blessed with two healthy babies, one boy, one girl?!

This family is absolutely precious — just look at these images! You know, I had someone comment on one of the Facebook previews about their Dad proudly serving…actually, while Daddy is proud of his babies and his wife…in this case, the Mommy is the one serving. That’s right — a toddler at home and the Military Momma taking care of these precious littles AND doing her thing at work while serving our country too! Amazing, loving, and beautiful family. Such an honor to meet them, and I know the sacrifices this family is making. It’s not easy, but with that much love, they make it look like it is!

In talking with Mommy, we decided an at home, candid lifestyle session with a few posed images would work best for their family. I call this realistic expectations! With a toddler at home and two newborn babes, although I know it can be done, I think having the best of both portraiture and lifestyle is the way to go!

Also, if you are interested in seeing their maternity session, you can find it HERE

This one is a must share!! LOVE!



Proudly showing off what Mommy is up to here in Montgomery, Alabama.


I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a prouder Big Brother!




Daddy has his hands full of love…

Quite possibly, one of my all time favorite lifestyle captures.

I adore this one so much! Look at those precious faces!


I might have been a little too giddy about capturing this one! Look at those smiles!


Pure love…and you can feel it!

One final image to round out this amazing family newborn session!


Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Purple

Artists Inspired Blog Circle – 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.


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.


{C} Family – Newborn Studio

What a beautiful little blessing! 

A few months back, I was able to capture this precious newborn in my studio! It was a lively session…we had Mom and Grandma here, and somehow, despite having the record for most diaper changes in one session, we were able to capture some gorgeous images! We needed to get a little creative with posing since this little one didn’t want to be squished (or wrapped) too much. I love how these turned out though — the detail in her eyelashes, skin, and lips are perfection. 

One of the best things about this session is that I was able to head back over yesterday to do an in-home documentary session with the whole family and SEE these beautiful captures in frames and on the wall! Documentary sessions like these make my whole heart so, so happy! I hope to have that session up sooner than this one got online, but I’ll be excited to share it when it’s up and processed. But trust me on this — if you love your photographer’s work, and want to pay them a compliment, you can do two things: one, get the images up on your walls, and two, refer to friends and family! Remember, photographers are creatives. We WANT to see our work to be seen, and that’s pretty difficult when images are stuck somewhere on a CD. This is another reason why I offer print packages! These images were printed and ready to be put in frames, and I’m thankful that my clients have been so, so great about getting them up. Such a huge reward to us seeing our work displayed in your homes! 

Okay…now, here’s Baby Adelyn, with more to come soon! 


Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Black


It’s mid-April, and to be honest, the idea of capturing “black” this month seemed ironic. Or, is it? 

We all think of the pretty pastels of Easter and the bright colored blooms of Spring during this time. But today, on Good Friday, I thought I’d also mention that out of the darkest day on Earth has come the most vibrant and beautiful, and purest forms of love. Now, not to be too emotional about this, but wow. Just to think of the contrast of that moment, from darkest, sunless, colorless moment on Earth has sprung life everlasting.

So, in choosing images this month, I chose to find images that had that stark contrast of black and dark vs. light and bright. In my style of photography, can be found fairly frequently, as the play of shadow and light is one of my favorite things to capture in an image, regardless of what it is I’m capturing. I also threw in a couple black and whites because they are from recent months, and, in my mind anyways, they highlight that emotion and moment of the image. 

Silhouettes are among my favorite, favorite, favorite things to capture, and thankfully my little apprentice captured this beautifully this past weekend, as I’ve always wanted a good one of my husband and myself! 


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.


Artists Inspired Blog Circle – Green


Yay!!! It’s March! I absolutely LOVE the month of March for a couple reasons. First, my handsome little man’s birthday is this month…three days before his Mommy’s birthday! That was an awesome 30th Birthday present seven years ago! But also, we have a few awesome traditions. The first we started when my daughter was itty bitty — we always wear our green and head to the zoo on St. Patrick’s Day! Last year, we made a valiant attempt, but unfortunately it was the first year that it didn’t work out. Daddy got off work later than we anticipated and the zoo closed earlier than we thought (it was only right before 4 pm!). But because it was slow…they weren’t allowing people in. So, we took pictures outside the zoo for our tradition, and I’m sure we treated the kids after that! This year, we’ll be heading home from our AMAZING Spring Break vacation on St. Patrick’s Day (details likely in an upcoming blog 🙂 ). The second tradition we started a few years ago with all the fun that comes with elementary school and learning about Dr. Seuss’s birthday! Now we make our green eggs and ham and yummy treats for the classes…and this is what I’m blogging today! We’ll be headed on our vacation tomorrow, so I’m posting early and sadly, this is the only green I got a picture of. I’m still happy as it still captures this stage in my son’s life.

Enjoy our “Green Eggs & Ham” treat via pictures and maybe think of us as you start up traditions for Dr. Seuss and St. Patrick’s Day next year!

Our version of “Green Eggs & Ham” as treats for his classmates.
Delish, too!!
Square pretzels, white candy wafer, green M&M.
And the littles love to help out!

I think he was proud of his accomplishment.

He is a super generous child, he loves giving.
And, I’m not sure where that light soft halo is coming from, buuuut, it’s pretty cool. I think.
Just very unexpected.

And ready to put them in little baggies!

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.


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.


{H} Family : Two Years Old & Pre-Deployment

Military families have my heart, and for obvious reasons as my husband has been proudly serving in the USAF for over fourteen years, and my father retired as a Marine. Although my childhood was not filled with deployment memories as my Dad retired when I was young, my children have been faced with a couple deployment separations, various schools keeping Daddy away for months at a time, innumerable TDYs of varying lengths, and even just long (LONG) hours at work. There even came a point where I wondered if voluntary separation (him living in OK while I stayed in AL with the kids) would make more sense than living in a house where we’d rarely see him at all.

So when I hear that military families are facing a deployment, I try to help and offer sessions as I can, as I know the struggles are real. This beautiful family, though scheduled for deployment in August, are thankfully reunited and their separation – though never easy – was brief. I am so thankful to have been able to meet them and capture some of these precious memories for them, as their little girl had also just turned One shortly after this session. I look on these family captures and see so much beauty and the emotion of having a young family with a sweet Two Year Old. So.Much.LOVE. They know every moment together matters.

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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.


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.


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.


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?



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.

2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-7 2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-9

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.

2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-1  2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-3

We are thankful to have had one of our favorite best friends with us for the drop off.
2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-4 2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-5

The tree was gorgeous at FBC-Moore…we had to stop for a picture. Trimmed in purple…a majestic color to honor our King.
2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-6  2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-8

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!

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.
2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-12 2016-operation-christmas-child-slp-web-13

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?


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.